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Boating safety

Whichever way you choose to enjoy life on the water, please take care; the lochs of the National Park may be calm when you launch, but conditions can change quickly. When using your craft on Loch Lomond, please make sure you read and understand the Loch Lomond Byelaws.

Here’s some advice to help you stay safe in the National Park.

Incident reporting & emergencies

Emergencies on all lochs in the National Park:

  • Dial 999 and ask for the police. Give details of your position and the problem you are experiencing
  • Provide your contact number and if applicable, your boat registration number
  • If you are on Loch Lomond, the police will alert the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat if it is required.

The Loch Lomond Rescue Boat is staffed by volunteers and funded by public donations.

Loch Lomond – less urgent situations

If you find yourself in a position where, for example, you have run out of fuel; your engine doesn’t start or you have engine trouble; try obtaining assistance by flagging down a passing boat.

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Pre-season checklist

When launching your craft for the first time in a while there are many easy mistakes to make. This is a short checklist that will help to ensure that you are prepared. Make sure that:

  • Engine is serviced
  • Lifejackets are serviced
  • Flares are in date
  • Batteries are serviced
  • Fire extinguishers are serviced
  • First aid kit is in date
  • Old spare fuel has been removed
  • Gas appliances have been serviced
  • Water tank is flushed out
  • All electrics are working

This list is not exhaustive and if you have any concerns about your boat maintenance you should contact a local marine engineer. The RNLI offer a free Safety Equipment Advisory (S.E.A.) check – for more information call 0800 328 0600.

Our video and advice gives some handy hints and tips to ensure you are prepared for a safe and enjoyable day’s boating.

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Pre-launch checklist

Whenever you are out on any of the lochs in the National Park, there are a number of things to bear in mind. Once you are happy that your boat is running properly and is carrying enough fuel etc, consider the following:

  • Before you leave home it is a good idea to check the weather. Although you are not going out onto the open seas the weather can change quickly on the lochs. Ensure that you have adequate clothing should the weather change.
    • There is a daily weather report in the reception area of the Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway in Balloch, alternatively please call Slipway staff on 01389 722030.
    • Two good weather websites are: BBC Inshore Weather and XC Weather.
  • Tell others where you are going. If you don’t make it back then someone can raise the alarm.
  • Should you get into difficulty you need to have some means of communication; have you got a VHF radio on your boat or a mobile phone with you, and do you have the Slipway telephone number?  Remember that the phone signal can be weak in some areas so carrying backup communications is always worth considering.
  • Ensure that you familiarise yourself with the loch you are visiting before you are on the water. Watch out for shallow or rocky areas and many shores are inaccessible for larger craft. Loch Lomond is 22 miles long and it is easy to get lost.  Do you have a map or chart?
  • Ensure you have lifejackets for all people on board your craft. Increase your safety by wearing one at all times. Remember it’s no use stowed away in a plastic bag to keep it clean. When on Loch Lomond you must wear a lifejacket if you are on a Personal Water Craft (PWC) or being towed.

And remember, always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and familiarise yourself with the Loch Lomond Byelaws and the location of the navigation buoys.

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Equipment checklist

We recommend that you take the following items with you on your boat:

  • Anchor with warp rope & chain
  • Bilge pump or bailer
  • Kill cord & spare
  • Charts
  • Toolkit & engine spares
  • First aid kit
  • Compass & GPS
  • Mobile phone
  • Mooring warps & fenders
  • Flares (please see below)
  • Throw line
  • Fire extinguisher(s) & fire blanket
  • Horn
  • Life jacket(s)
  • VHF radio 

A word on flares:

  • Red flares are used for night or poor visibility and come in either a large parachute rocket, visible up to 28 miles or, a hand held red flare visible for approx 5-7 miles for more coastal sailing.
  • Orange smoke flares are used in daytime and come in either a canister for offshore use or a hand held version for more coastal use.
  • White hand held flares are used for collision avoidance and should be kept separate from other flares to avoid confusion.
  • Personal flares are available as a double ended day and night flare, and also a pack of mini-rocket flares ideal for coastal use.
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General care for lifejackets

It is essential that you have appropriate lifejackets, also known as a Personal Floating Device (PFD), on your craft for all people on board. It is commonplace to store PFDs on board your craft for prolonged periods, however this can be detrimental to their overall condition. A PFD of poor quality will offer little, if any, help in the case of an emergency.

It is good practice to regularly service your PFDs, although there are also some simple checks that you can do at home to help maintain them in between services. The RNLI offer useful tips on storing and maintaining your PFDs, such as regularly checking for signs of wear and tear.

Unless you are on board a seaplane or are the Master of any Vessel who has received a prior written exemption from the National Park Authority in relation to the carrying of lifejackets or buoyancy aids in accordance with the terms of this Byelaw 3.5 (6), the following will apply:

  • At all times you need to ensure that your vessel is carrying sufficient lifejackets or buoyancy aids of the standard specified in Byelaw 3.5 (6) (d) for every person on board.
  • That each person wears a suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid at all times when being towed, except where a person: is being towed whilst barefoot skiing and is wearing an adapted wet suit which aids buoyancy; or is being towed whilst wake boarding or waterskiing and is wearing an appropriate impact vest of the standard specified within the Byelaws.
  • Every person on a Personal water craft wears a lifejacket or buoyancy aid of the type described within the Byelaws at all times while on board the Personal water craft including a jet ski or jet bike, or being towed by another vessel.
  • Sufficient life jackets or buoyancy aids or appropriate impact vests, means any lifejacket or buoyancy aid or impact vest complying with relevant standards issued by the International Standards Organisation and/or the British Standards Institute or of an equivalent or higher standard which is of an appropriate size and weight for each person and of an appropriate condition.
  • Increase your safety by wearing one at all times – it is no use stored away in a plastic bag to keep it clean.

The National Park has a zero-tolerance policy on lifejackets on Loch Lomond and anyone not complying with the byelaw is likely to be reported for consideration by the Procurator Fiscal. It is for your own safety. Our lifejacket survey undertaken in 2008 showed that 69% of adults and 94% of children leaving the Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway in Balloch were wearing their lifejackets. Remember: wearing your lifejacket means one less thing to think about in an emergency.

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